THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
There remains a fifth passage, Luke
16:19-31, commonly called �the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus,� or
of �Dives and Lazarus.� It is absolutely impossible that the traditional
interpretation of this can be correct, because if it were, it would be
directly opposed to all other teaching of Scripture. And the Lord's
words cannot and must not be so interpreted. If it be Bible truth (as it
is) that �the dead know not anything,� how could the Lord have taught,
and how can we believe that they do know a very great deal? If it be
that fact that when man's �breath goeth forth, in that very day his
thoughts perish,� how can we believe that he goes on thinking? and not
only thinking without a brain, but putting his �thoughts� into
words, and speaking them without a tongue?
When the great subject of resurrection is in question, one of the most
solemn arguments employed is that, if there be no such thing as
resurrection, then not only all the dead, but �they also which are
fallen asleep in Christ are perished� (I Corinthians 15:18). This is
also the argument which immediately follows in verse 29 (after the
parenthesis in verses 20-28), and is based upon verse 18.
�Else, what are they doing
who are being baptized? It is for dead (corpses) if
the dead rise not at all. Why are they then being baptized for corpses?�
Which is, of course, the case, if they
are not going to rise again.
We are expressly enjoined by the Lord
Himself: �Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in the which all
that are in the graves shall hear His voice� (John 5:28). These are the
Lord's own words, and they tell us where His Voice will be heard; and,
that is not in heaven, not in Paradise, or in any so-called
�intermediate state,� but �in the graves.�
With this agrees Dan. 12:2, which tells
us that those who �awake� in resurrection will be those �that sleep in
the dust of the earth.� It does not say, in �Abraham's bosom,� or any
other place, state, or condition, but �in the
dust of the earth�; from which man
was �taken� (Gen. 2:7; 3:23), and to which he must �return� (Gen. 3:19.
It is, of course, most blessedly true that there is a vast difference
between the saved and the unsaved in this �falling asleep.� The former
have received the gift of �eternal life� (Romans 6:23): not yet in
actual fruition; but �in Christ,� who is responsible to raise them from
the dead (John 6:39), that they may enter upon the enjoyment of it. The
unsaved do not possess �eternal life,� for it is declared to be �the
gift of God� (Romans 6:23). No one is responsible for them, to raise
them up. True, they will be raised (Revelation 20:12,13), but it will be
only "the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29); for judgment, and to
be cast into the lake of fire. Very different, therefore, are these two
cases. The atonement and resurrection, and ascension of Christ has made
all the difference for His people.
They die like others; but for them it is only falling asleep.
Why? Because they are to wake again. Though dead, they are now called
�the dead in Christ,� but it remains perfectly true that �we who are
alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not precede (R.V.)
them.� And, therefore, it follows, of necessity, that they cannot
But it is sometimes urged that �the Lord led forth a multitude of
captives from Hades to Paradise when He wrested from Satan
his power over death and Hades� (Eph. 4:8). But the fact is that
Eph. 4:8 says nothing about Hades or Paradise! Nothing about �multitudes
of captives,� and nothing about the state between the moment of His
dying and rising. It was �when He ascended up on high� that there was
this great triumph for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not told what were
all the immediate effects of Christ's death, resurrection and ascension,
in Satan's realm of evil angels. Col. 2:15 tells us the great fact that
He �spoiled principalities and powers.� Henceforth He held the keys of
death and the grave (hades) (Revelation 1:18).
There was a mighty conflict and a glorious victory when Christ rose from
the dead and conquered him that had the power of death. In proof and
token of His triumph �many� (not a few) rose from the dead (Matthew.
27:52, 53); but these again sleep in Christ awaiting the return and the
final resurrection from the dead.
We now come to the so-called parable itself. It is evident that this
Scripture (Luke 16:19-31) must be interpreted and understood in a manner
that shall not only not contradict that plain and direct teaching of all
these passages; but on the contrary, in a manner which must be in
perfect and complete harmony with them: and in such a way that it shall
be necessary for the better understanding of the whole context in
which it stands. That is to say, we must not explain the Parable
apologetically, as though we wished it were not there; but as though we
could not do without it. We must treat it as being indispensable, when
taken with the context. Let us look first at some of the inconsistencies
of the Traditional Interpreters.
Some of them call it a �parable�; but the Lord does not so designate it.
It does not even begin by saying �He said.� It commences abruptly -
�There was�; without any further guide as to the reason or meaning of
what is said.
Then they follow their own arbitrary will, picking out one word or
expression, which they say is literal; and another, which they say is
parabolic. For example, �Abraham's bosom� is, according to them,
parabolic; and denotes Paradise. They are bound so to take it, because
if literal, �Abraham's bosom� would hold only one person! It refers to
the act of reclining at meals, where any one person, if he leaned back,
would be �in the bosom� of the other. John was so placed with regard to
the Lord Jesus (John 13:23; 21:20), and it was a token of favor and love
(John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7).
Then they take the �fire� and the �water,� the �tongue� and the �flame,�
etc., as being literal; but when the Lord elsewhere speaks of �the worm
that dieth not,� they take that as parabolic, and say it does not mean
�a worm� but conscience. In all this they draw only on their
imagination, and interpret according to their own arbitrary will.
If we follow out this illogical principle, then according to them
Lazarus was never buried at all; while the rich man was. For �the rich
man also died and was buried� (v. 22); while Lazarus, instead of being
buried, was �carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.�
There is the further difficulty as to how a man who has been actually
buried, could think without a brain, or speak without a tongue. How can
the spirit speak, or act apart from the physical organs of the body?
This is a difficulty our friends cannot get over: and so they have to
invent some theory (which outdoes the Spiritists' invention of an
�Astral body�) which has no foundation whatever in fact: and is
absolutely destitute of anything worthy of the name �evidence� of any
Then again, Hades is never elsewhere mentioned as a place of
fire. On the contrary, it is itself to be �cast into the lake of fire�
The Rich Man and Lazarus cont>
<Paul's Desire in Philippians 1:23